Shouting in Church

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Is Shouting Biblical to do in the house of God or is it necessary?

Answer Section
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I have not looked forward to answering this question. This in one of those emotional hot-button issues that tends to divide people who should not be divided. However, I try to answer the questions people have on their minds to the best of my ability and feel this one needs to be answered. I ask for patience from those who read my answer.

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First, we need to define what the shout is. I am not sure it means the same to everyone. My dictionary defines a shout as a loud cry or call; any sudden, loud outburst or uproar. In your question, I am sure you are referring to the practice in certain churches to shout out loud when they are overjoyed with the blessings of the Lord. However, the practice from church to church and from time to time varies greatly. In some, an old timer may occasionally shout out praise in an especially good service. In others, the shouts are as common as black-backed Bibles. They may even dominate the services from beginning to end.

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The Bible recognizes two major causes for shouting. When Joshua and Moses returned to the camp in Exodus 32, Joshua thought he heard a noise of war in the camp (v.17-18). However, Moses told him that is was rather the noise of them that sing that he heard. That is, instead of shouts of war, they were hearing shouts of joy. But this passage shows us something else as well. Not only are there two main reasons for shouting, there are also a good side and a bad side to each kind of shout. In Exodus 32:18, Moses declared, "It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome." Here we see that a shout of war may come from the victors or from the conquered. But the passage also shows us that shouts of joy can be good or bad. Here, the people were shouting because they had just turned from God and were worshipping false gods. Their joy was certainly misplaced.

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At this point, we need to ask a couple of questions:

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  1. Are we commanded to shout in church?
  2. Are we commanded not to shout in church?
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For instance, Psalm 132:9 states, "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy." The mention of the priests puts the verse in context of Old Testament Israelite worship.   Technically, the shout is never mentioned in reference to the worship of the New Testament church; though singing (Colossians 3:16) and the saying of Amen (1Corinthians 14:16) are mentioned. In fact, shouting is only mentioned two times in the New Testament. The first time, it refers to the Jews exalting Herod and calling his voice the voice of a god (Acts 12:22). Herod paid dearly for accepting this false praise. In the other verse, the Lord returns from heaven with a shout (1Thessalonians 4:16). This is certainly the shout of the battlefield (compare the shouts of the people in the taking of Jericho - Joshua 6:5, 10, 16, 20).

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But this is not to say that shouting in church is automatically wrong. Remember, I admitted that the Bible did not command us not to shout in church. And, since it is an accepted form of expression in other contexts, it could have a place among God's people at the right time.

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Here are some points that may help in the proper use of the shout in church:

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  1. It is not commanded for New Testament worship. Therefore, God's people should not be compelled to shout or made to feel that they are ungodly if they do not shout.
  2. It was usually a spontaneous expression of joy and praise for an extraordinary blessing of God. It came at times of unusual blessing; such as, the completion of the temple foundation, the coming of fire from heaven, or the moving of the ark to Jerusalem. It was never an everyday experience.
  3. It was not to be an end in itself. Shouting was an expression of something else. It was never to be the goal of the saints. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in certain churches today. The people come to church seeking the emotional release of a great time of shouting. This is not scriptural and runs against the working of the Holy Spirit in believers.
  4. Shouting is not necessary for the work of God to be accomplished. The New Testament church is never told to shout. Therefore, it can accomplish its work without the shout. Shouting may be the result of a great working of God in a church, but it is not the method by which He does His work in the church.
  5. Shouting can be wrongly motivated and work contrary to the will of God. 1Samuel 4 tells of a time when the Israelites were far away from the Lord while in battle with the Philistines. They initially lost and so decided to bring the ark of the Lord to the battle. This action so thrilled them that "all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang out" (1Samuel 4:5). Yet, God was not in the battle and God was not in the shout. They lost the battle, and many men, and the priests, and even the ark. Shouting can and often does become a demonstration for the show-off's and a cathartic release that makes the participants feel good. If this offends you, I ask you to consider the practice of shouting. Is it the practice of the most spiritual? Do those who do it most live the closest to God when they leave the church? Do the churches that shout the most have the most spiritual congregations? Do they have the most pure doctrine? We would do well to consider the motivation that lies behind much of the shouting that is done today.
  6. However, as stated before, the scriptures say nothing that would prohibit shouting in churches where it is accepted at proper times. Though the word is not used, Luke 19:37 comes very close to describing a shouting church service: "And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen." Jesus came nigh. The disciples rejoiced and praised God with a loud voice. That sounds like shouting to me.
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When it comes down to it, simply discretion is the best policy. Shouting is not to be the goal of a church service. However, on great occasions, they have shouted for the great joy given to them by the Lord. Certainly, this may come into churches at times. But perhaps we should remember that the greatest signs of true revival are quite the opposite of shouting.

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In the Great Awakening in America under preaching like that of George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent, shouting for joy was seldom heard. Rather, people would cry out with an overwhelming sense of guilt. They would weep or sob. Sometimes, they would faint because of their dread of the judgment of God. However, the services remained orderly until a preacher named James Davenport encouraged more violent outbursts.

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Unfortunately, we have often followed the extreme as the rule instead of the responses to deep conviction brought by the messages of Whitefield and others. The revivals of the past were brought about by the deep conviction of sin and repentance of sinners; not by the extreme emotional outbursts of lukewarm saints.

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On this issue, good people will disagree. I say nothing here as an attack on anyone. I only attempt as well as I can to put an emotional issue in the light of God's holy word. Any failures are with me and none are with the Holy Book.

David Reagan
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 30:30

A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;